Lying on my bed in shorts with a big bowl of penne watching some mediocre cartoon movie is my favourite way to relax after a long day. Almost always this routine is interrupted by my mother and brother coming into my room to try and spend time with me so they can talk about themselves.
After a few minutes of hearing about the riveting events at my mom’s call centre or the fact that my brother doesn’t enjoy school, there will be a lull in the conversation and both of them will look at my unshaven legs.
“That’s so gross,” says my brother.
“Can you please shave them for when we go to the Bahamas for spring break?” says my mom. “You’ll be walking around in a bikini; boys are going to see you!”
I don’t shave my body hair. I don’t want to and I shouldn’t have to.
For me, it’s just another way advertisers and the beauty industry capitalize off of tricking women to do tedious beauty routines, when they could be doing something cool like playing video games.
We’ve all seen the razor commercials where Jennifer Lopez or a group of models are on the beach with their transparent veils blowing in the wind, showing off their hairless bodies while dancing to Venus by Bananarama.
This is nothing new as Western advertisers have been promoting shaving for a century.
The bombardment of advertising started in 1915, calling for the removal of objectionable body hair for women who wanted to start wearing sleeveless dresses, which lead to underarm shaving. Advertising for the removal of leg hair came decades later when hemlines continued to recede and showing off unshaven legs became patriotic during WWII, with the iconic picture of war era pin-up model and actress Betty Grable.
Even though I almost never shave my body hair, years of advertising and the cultural expectation has still affected me. I tend not to wear tank-tops or shorts out in public during the summer and I never go to pools.
Some women are lucky to have light brown or blonde hair on their legs. I’m Italian, so it’s like walking around with a fur coat around each of my calves. This makes it is much harder to ignore.
Some of my friends are much braver than I am. They go out in summer dresses showing off their arm pit and leg hair at any opportunity.
Someday I’ll get there but for now I’ll just tell everyone I’m hairy.